Shmoop

Holiday Gift Ideas for Literary Characters

What do most literary characters have in common? They’re terrible. Sure, there are a few Atticuses and Celies in the bunch, but for the most part, the figures of classic literature don’t deserve much more for the holidays than a big ol’ pile of coal.

But we’ve made our list—and checked it twice—and came up with a few fitting holiday gifts for some of literature’s more controversial characters. In addition to the coal, of course.

Mrs. Bennet

Mrs. Bennet seems to have a lot of time on her hands, and she tends to use it for things like meddling, gossiping, and…more meddling. So we’re gonna wrap up a giant book of Sudoku puzzles to help keep her busy. And hey, works the brain muscles, too.

Prince Hamlet

For Hamlet, we’re going big: a life coach. This guy went through a lot and, uh, it kinda messed him up. He became a little indecisive—to put it lightly—and we figured he could really use some guidance to help get his life back in order. (And yeah, we might be a little late with this one…)

Huck and Jim

We’re all about efficiency here at Shmoop, so we’re gonna give Huck and Jim a nice new motorboat. They can still keep the raft for bonding time and other various shenanigans, but this’ll help ’em get where they’re going a little more quickly.

Janie and Pheoby

We’re going homemade on this one. Janie and Pheoby must really like each other, since they spend the majority of Their Eyes Were Watching God sitting on a porch exchanging stories. So we’re gonna give them friendship bracelets to symbolize their bond—and because we like to show off our craftiness.

Vardaman Bundren

After we read about this kid thinking his mother was a fish, we figured he could use some Dr. Seuss. Maybe the illustrations will help clarify things a bit…

Macbeth

For Macbeth, in addition to a cleaning service (Lady Macbeth seems to have had some trouble with that one stain), we’ll be gifting a copy of Oedipus the King. You know, just to remind him how the whole prophecy thing works.

Jay Gatsby

We’re pretty close with The (Late) Great Gatsby, so he’s getting a whole haul. First, a diary. Dude had a lot of thoughts and seemed to bottle them up into symbolic ponderings of the past, so it’s probably good for him to put pen to paper. We’ll also spring for a gift card to Amazon to help Gatsby keep up the façade of reading that only an owl-eyed man could see through. And finally, we’ll go for a collection of bow ties—because looking sharp is what the Eggs are all about.

Head over to our Learning Guides for more details about every canonical literary character under the sun, or check out our course list to dig even deeper into these texts.

Natural Healthy Concepts

Milk Thistle Liver Detox: What Does The Research Say?

Milk-Thistle-Liver-Detox

Milk thistle, sometimes also known as Mary thistle and holy thistle, is a plant native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It belongs in the same plant family as the daisy, and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Silymarin is the main component of milk thistle seeds, but the terms ‘milk thistle’ and ‘silymarin’ are sometimes used interchangeably.

Silymarin has been researched to support the liver and new cell growth. The group of flavonoids (silibinin, silidianin, and silicristin) that make up the chemical silymarin are “thought to help repair liver cells damaged by alcohol and other toxic substances … [the flavonoids] also protects new liver cells from being destroyed by these same toxins.”  When we talk about milk thistle supplements or milk thistle in alternative or natural medicine, we are typically referring to the work done by silymarin.

There are a number of ways that people use milk thistle to support liver function. It is used by people with hepatitis, cirrhosis and gallbladder problems. But is there any evidence to support milk thistle liver detox? Can milk thistle support a healthy liver? If you’re looking at any form of a milk thistle liver detox program, then reading the evidence below may be helpful before you start.

Milk Thistle for Liver Challenges

The liver is the organ most commonly associated with milk thistle. Liver detox is something that those suffering from cirrhosis (or scarring) of the liver may be investigating. There are many causes of cirrhosis, but chronic hepatitis C and alcohol abuse are the primary risk factors. A systematic review of studies where milk thistle supplements were used attempted to address if and how milk thistle might “alter the physiologic markers of liver function” and “Reduce mortality or morbidity, or improve the quality of life in adults with alcohol-related, toxin-induced, or drug-induced liver disease, viral hepatitis, cholestasis, or primary hepatic malignancy.”

Because of study limitations, clinical efficacy could not be shown; however, a “possible benefit” was shown for “improvement in aminotransferases and liver function tests.”

Studies have also shown that for people with cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis, milk thistle may increase survival, though because of study flaws, the University of Maryland cautioned that more research is necessary to valid these claims.

Milk Thistle and Hepatitis

Some evidence has also suggested that milk thistle may be used to support those diagnosed with hepatitis. Hepatitis C is another disease of the liver, one that can cause inflammation and swelling in the liver. Chronic hepatitis C is a major risk factor for cirrhosis.

Evidence is mixed but one study looked at 16 patients who had not responded to other treatments (specifically, interferon and ribavirin therapy), and found that “milk thistle significantly reduced the viral load of hepatitis C. In 7 of the subjects the virus decreased to undetectable levels after 14 days of therapy.”

Milk Thistle for Other Uses

Milk thistle may also support and protect the liver from damage resulting from chemotherapy. Silymarin “protects liver and kidney cells from toxic effects of drugs, including chemotherapy.” In fact, not only has milk thistle been used to protect the liver during chemotherapy, there is “strong preclinical evidence” that silymarin has “hepatoprotective and anticarcinogenic effects.”

As with all supplements, if you are considering a milk thistle supplement, talk to doctor about any potential drug or supplement interactions. The Natural Healthy Concepts store has a wide variety of supplements to support your liver health.

Did you know about all of milk thistle’s potential benefits? What was the most surprising? Find out more at Natural Healthy Concepts.

MSC Cruises

Gianluigi Aponte, owner of Mediterranean Shipping Company, acquired Starlauro, a one-ship cruise line whose fleet consisted of the Achille Lauro (which had been hijacked by Palestinian terrorists in 1986). This first ship continued its troubled history, even while under the MSC flag. In 1996, the Achille Lauro, while sailing a passenger cruise, caught fire off the coast of Africa and, ultimately, sank. All passengers were safely rescued.

Other ships in MSC’s early fleet included MSC Melody and MSC Rhapsody. (Both were existing ships that were acquired by the line; both have since retired.)

The turn of the millennium was a massive breakthrough for MSC, when huge container ship operator Mediterranean Shipping Company, the line’s parent, decided it was time to expand its presence in the cruise market. The result was an order for a pair of brand-new 58,000-ton ships — the very first new-builds in the company’s history. Three years later, in 2003, the company took delivery of their first-born, MSC Lirica, setting off an epic expansion that would catapult MSC to the number four spot worldwide — and number two in Europe — in a matter of years.

MSC Opera debuted in June 2004, carrying 1,756 passengers. The line then bought several vessels from the defunct First European/Festival: MSC Armonia and MSC Sinfonia; both ships measured 58,625 tons and carried 1,566 passengers. The ships in the Lirica Class were stretched and expanded through the line’s Renaissance program, adding additional staterooms to each vessel.

The introduction of a new class of ships — larger, more amenity-laden and featuring an even higher ratio of private verandahs — emerged with MSC Musica. Measuring 89,600 tons and accommodating 2,550 passengers, that class “master” was launched in June 2006; siblings include MSC Orchestra (debuted in spring of 2007) and MSC Poesia (spring 2008). MSC Magnifica, the fourth ship in the Musica class, launched in 2010.

The Fantasia Class of ships followed in 2008. MSC Fantasia (137,936 tons, 3,274 passengers), which debuted in December 2008, was the first of four Fantasia-class vessels. Sister ship MSC Splendida (137,936 tons, 3,274 passengers) debuted in 2009, and MSC Divina (139,072 tons, 3,502 passengers) arrived in May 2012. MSC Preziosa (139,072 tons, 3,502 passengers) joined the fleet in 2013. These two post-Panamax-sized vessels are based on a unique protoype that incorporates first-ever features, such as the ship-within-a-ship Yacht Club concept for suite holders, a pool with a magrodome for all-seasons swimming and an interactive center with a 4D theater and a Formula One simulator.

In 2014, MSC announced four new ships, the first of which — MSC Meraviglia — will debut in June 2017. Carrying 4,500-passengers, it will be second only to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class in terms of passenger capacity. MSC Meraviglia is being built in the same shipyard as the Oasis-class ships — STX France — and will be the biggest ship ever built by a European-based cruise line. Meraviglia — the name means “wonder” in Italian — will spend its first summer sailing the western Mediterranean with three homeports: Genoa, Marseille and Barcelona.

Hot on its heels will be the launch in November 2017 of MSC Seaside, heralding another new class of ship — Seaside. It will be smaller than Meraviglia at 160,000 gross tons, and it will have 2,067 cabins holding 4,134 passengers in double occupancy. It will launch in Miami, be christened there and homeport there year-round, in a further bid for the line to break into the U.S. market. A second Seaside class ship will follow in May 2018.

The line has also set its sights on China: MSC Lirica made its homeport in Shanghai in May 2016, initially for two years. It also ventured into Cuba, basing MSC Opera there in 2015 and MSC Armonia in November 2016.

Uniquely, in an era in which cruise lines choose a different celebrity godmother for each ship in the fleet, the Mediterranean-influenced MSC has remained loyal to legendary actress Sophia Loren. She’s served as godmother for every new ship since MSC Lirica.

Try MSC Cruises Today.